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Chapter 8 — Letterfrack

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Sexual abuse in Letterfrack


Br Karel, who had been the Superior of Letterfrack for two years, said that he had an argument with Br Dax over the manner in which the refectory was run. He said that he told Br Dax to give the boys more food and that he supervised a meal to ensure that the bigger boys were not stealing food from the smaller boys.


Br Telfour was asked whether there was anything from his recollection of Br Dax’s behaviour at the time that ‘clicked’ when he heard Br Dax had been imprisoned. He replied that there was not.


Br Dax perpetrated sexual abuse, often with violence, on boys in Letterfrack over a period of 14 years. The Congregation has failed to address the question as to how it was possible for him to continue undetected for so long. There are two possibilities: either the Brothers or some of them were aware of Br Dax’s activities but did nothing or they were not aware, in which case it must be asked why none of his many victims disclosed the abuse. Neither scenario reflects credit on the Institution or on the Brothers who worked there. Many of the accounts of abuse would not have been verifiable but for the admissions of the Brother, and only four of those who were named in criminal charges came to the Investigation, which implies that the incidence of such behaviour is substantially more than could be established in evidence. The Christian Brothers have accepted that Br Dax sexually abused boys in Letterfrack and have expressed their regret for this, but their approach to many of the witnesses was adversarial and even confrontational – calling into question evidence that the accused himself did not challenge or contradict. This approach was unnecessarily distressing for complainants.


In the early 1960s, Br Vallois left Letterfrack because of a complaint of sexual abuse of a boy. There is no documentary evidence of this incident and the only information came from a Brother who had served in Letterfrack and who gave evidence to the Committee. Br Vallois was sent to Letterfrack as a temporarily professed Brother. The witness was in charge of the senior boys’ dormitory and Br Vallois, who seemed keen and enthusiastic, asked the witness to allow him to take the boys to bed. A boy reported to a Brother that Br Vallois used to sit on the edge of his bed and touch him inappropriately. The complaint was passed on to the Superior, who informed the Provincial, and Br Vallois was brought to the Provincialate for questioning. He did not renew his vows.


Br Michel described the incident as follows: The young man’s name was Vallois, Br Vallois. He was sent to Letterfrack as a very promising young man, as a teacher and so on. He was very keen and very anxious to work. A few times he asked me – I was in charge of the senior dormitory at the time and he said to me once or twice, “could I take the boys to bed tonight because I would like to learn the ropes?” So I said yes, I was probably glad of the break. It transpires that there was touching going on in the dormitory. Now, I am not perfectly clear who reported it, I presume it was the boy himself. I can’t remember his name, but it went as far as I remember to the Disciplinarian first and it went from the Disciplinarian to the Manager who was Br Guillaume and within a day or two that young man was transported by car to Dublin. I am not certain if the boy concerned was brought also, I have an idea he was. So the Provincial interviewed them and I am not again certain if the offender was let back for a short time to collect his stuff, I can’t recall fully. At any rate at the end of that year that young man left the Congregation. I don’t know whether he was dismissed or whether he decided to discontinue as a Brother. That’s the story in brief.


The Congregation’s Submission stated that ‘the Congregation accepts, on the basis of the evidence of Br Michel and on the basis of its own records, that Br Vallois was involved in some level of sexual abuse’.


This case suggests that prompt action could be taken if the authorities decided to do so.


In 1960s, a member of the lay staff, Mr Albaric, was removed from the School for sexually abusing children. A number of boys complained to Br Telfour: ‘Mr Albaric puts his thing against us when we are going to the toilet’. The Brother told the boys to report the matter to the Resident Manager. The Resident Manager subsequently confirmed that the boys had complained and gave Br Telfour a letter to give to Mr Albaric informing him of his dismissal.


A number of complainants alleged that Mr Albaric sexually abused them. One said that one night he went to the toilet and Mr Albaric followed him in. There was a serious outbreak of scabies in the school at the time and Mr Albaric told the witness that he wanted to check him for infection. He then attempted to rape the witness and, in order to prevent the rape, the witness masturbated Mr Albaric. He was in a state of shock afterwards and he felt quite sick. He said that he was afraid to go to the toilet after the incident and that, as a result, he started wetting the bed for which he was punished. He heard rumours that Mr Albaric was abusing other boys as well. Apparently, the bigger boys found out what was happening and reported the matter to the authorities. The next thing they knew, Mr Albaric was gone.


Another complainant told a similar story. He said that he was a bed-wetter and that Mr Albaric, the night watchman, would abuse him in the dormitory. He said that the abuse continued until Mr Albaric left the School: ‘He was finally sacked some time for abusing other kids’.


It is significant that Br Telfour did not go to the Resident Manager with this complaint himself but left it for the boys to do so. If the boys had not acted, it is possible that Mr Albaric could have continued his activities notwithstanding the complaint that had been made.


Br Telfour described another occasion when the same two boys as had reported Mr Albaric came to him and made what he called a very vague allegation against another Brother. The allegation, as recalled by the witness, was not that the Brother had engaged in any sexual misconduct with the two boys, but that other boys were saying that the Brother ‘did things’ to them. He said that he pursued the matter with the boys who were reporting to him and tried to get something definite by way of a name or an activity, but: I was just getting the same – the boys – just the boys – shrug of the shoulders, as if – I didn’t know how to take it. The boys say, that is all I was getting, ah just things, things. So I couldn’t pursue it any further.


He felt that, because he had not got any specifics or details of the names of boys involved or what was going on or where or when it was going on, he was unable to take the complaint either to the Superior or to the Brother who was accused. Nothing further happened on the strength of that information.


Two complainants alleged that Br Curtis sexually abused them. One alleged that he and other boys were sexually abused by Br Curtis in the classroom. He described Br Curtis as ‘an absolute thug ... a pure thug, a paedophile thug’. He stated that: The man would be there doing it in the classroom, staring at the classroom and then he would be doing it with various kids. He would take you out of the desk, get one arm, put it behind your back, your buttocks would be there leaned against the desk and he would be there pushing you back and he would be going into you.


Another witness described Br Curtis as a nice man but stated that he was regularly abused by him. Br Curtis got him a job in the laundry, which was perceived as a ‘soft job’. He started by being nice to the complainant, who welcomed the attention, although he was conscious that it was wrong. Br Curtis would take him from his bed in the mornings four or five times a week in order to abuse him. Normally, Br Curtis was gentle with him but, on one occasion during his first year in the school, he was rough and raped him. He said that Br Curtis made him feel special until he was raped: Yes, he would make me play with him and he would – nearly every morning – as I said, there was that little room at the top of the dormitories. There was two, there was one each side, I remember, there was more than two little ones, but Br Curtis when he stayed there, when he – the first thing in the morning he would come and take me from my bed, just after our prayers, and in the pretence – and then he would take me into the little room and then he would make me either play with him or he would play with himself. ... On one occasion, he just took me in the room and he seemed very excited and he was quite rough, generally – normally, he wasn’t as rough, but he just seemed to be very rough that morning and I don’t know whether he inserted his penis, or, as I said – but in my anus, and I felt a lot of pain and I asked him to stop on many occasions and he didn’t ... That was just the one occasion.

  1. Letterfrack Industrial School, Report on archival material held at Cluain Mhuire, by Bernard Dunleavy BL (2001).
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  6. Prior Park was a residential school run by the Christian Brothers near Bath, England.
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  19. This document is undated, although the date ‘6th November 1964’ is crossed out.
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  32. See table at paragraph 3.20 .
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  36. This information is taken from a report compiled for the Christian Brothers by Michael Bruton in relation to Letterfrack in 2001.
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  58. Electricity Supply Board.
  59. See table at paragraph 8.21 .
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  61. Cross-reference to CB General Chapter where notes that this arrangement was with the agreement of the Department of Education.
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  65. Gateways Chapter 3 goes into this in detail.